Best Outdoor Activities in Tahoe

10Best Outdoor Activities in Lake Tahoe: Ice Skating and Ropes Courses

From lake to mountain to high up in the blue sky, the best outdoor activities in the Lake Tahoe can be enjoyed from any height or even under the water. Lake Tahoe is an outdoor heaven with everything from hiking and mountain biking to hang gliding and parasailing.

For those who like to keep it simple, head to the Tahoe Rim Trail or the Tallac trailhead and hike some of the most beautiful locations you have ever seen. If you want to stay on the water (or above the water) rent a paddleboard or kayak at North Shore's Tahoe Paddle & Oar or go parasailing on the North Shore. If you are on the South Shore, you can also see into the water and over the mountains on a balloon ride with Lake Tahoe Balloons.

For fun in the snow, head to Squaw Valley for some excellent deep snow or for ice skating at High Camp. The skiing at Northstar can be enjoyed on a bunny hill or a black diamond, and if you are really daring, charter a helicopter with Pacific Crest Heli-Ski. If you really want to be part of the outdoors and are a bit of a daredevil, get a tandem hang glide with Thermal Sky Sports.


Olympic Valley

High Camp at Squaw Valley is a destination unto itself. It sits on a mountain in Olympic Valley and high above Lake Tahoe. High Camp is accessed via an aerial tram that travels 2,000 vertical feet, delivering visitors to a village that features the free Olympic Museum, swimming pool and hot tub, restaurants, observation decks, and even provides entrance to high altitude ski runs. During the summer, High Camp has its own set of high altitude hiking trails. Activities are available day and night, summer and winter, and the views of the lake and the mountains are stunning from the pinnacle and from the aerial tram.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: High Camp has year-long activities and some of the best views of the entire area.

Christina's expert tip: Squaw's High Camp is accessible all year long.

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Because of its beauty and accessibility Desolation Wilderness is per acre, the most heavily used wilderness area in the country. Desolation Wilderness is 12.5 miles long and 8 miles and is accessed by 15 named and numbered trailheads under a quota system. Day Hikers fill out registration forms at the head, but overnighters must pay a fee and register ahead of time. Magnificent views from all over, specifically one atop a granite slope that overlooks Emerald Bay, where you cannot find a better place for a picnic. Desolation contains 63,960 acres of subalpine forests, glacial lakes and valleys, and granite peaks. A portion of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail/Tahoe Rim Trail passes through the area. All persons entering Desolation must obtain a wilderness permit all year-round. Day hikers may self-register at the trailheads, but overnight users must obtain the permits (fee charged) in person. Since Desolation is so popular, a wilderness permit quota system is in place for overnight campers. You can make a reservation for overnight permits. Fees are charged for both reservations and camping. Desolation Wilderness lies to the southwest of Lake Tahoe and north of Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Desolation is one of the most popular hiking spots in the Tahoe area, but you can get away into the more remote areas.

Christina's expert tip: I you don't want to go all the way into the Wilderness, Eagle Lake (a mile in) is a good stop.

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Tahoe Paddle & Oar is located in Kings Beach on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. They offer top-end canoe, kayak and paddleboard rentals, instruction, guided kayak tours and a full service paddlesport retail store. They also specialize in team building activities for small groups and large corporate events. Tahoe Paddle & Oar offers guided kayak tours May through October, weather permitting. No experience is necessary and beginner and advanced participants are welcome. The most popular trip is into Crystal Bay, which features natural hot springs and gigantic boulder mazes along the California and Nevada borders. This four mile round trip usually takes two and a half hours. TAHOE PADDLE & OAR offers a fun and practical on-water approach to learning and improving your paddling technique. Kayak lessons are available to individuals or group instruction is available. PRE-REGISTRATION is required for all classes. A maximum of six participants per session. All equipment is provided. Personal boats may be used. All boats need to be clean before entering the swimming pool. Swimming ability is necessary for all river paddling instruction.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: The Crystal Bay trip is amazing; natural hot springs, boulder mazes and Tahoe's mountains on all sides.

Christina's expert tip: Most paddle trips take off early in the morning before the waves appear on the lake.

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Imagine flying over the mountains and lakes that dot the landscape below the Tahoe Range. You can with a tandem or individual hang glide with Thermal Sky Sports. Thermal Sky Sports offers tandem hang gliding trips and hang gliding lessons from the East Bowl of the Mount Rose Ski resort on Slide Mountain. The lessons and trips are run daily and are by appointment only. A typical tandem flight will last about 15-25 minutes and the pilot may even let you take over and fly the glider. The cost for a tandem hang glide on a weekday is $240 and on the weekends is $300. HD photos and video are extra.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Thermal Sky Sports is a thrilling way to see the Tahoe area.

Christina's expert tip: Even if you are afraid of heights, this daredevil sport might cure you.

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One of the most fantastic views of Lake Tahoe is from the seat of a parasail. North Shore Parasail is the original parasailing company on the lake, so you'll certainly be working with experts. The rides take off from the back of a motorboat, so you also get a tour of the North Shore before strapping the parasail onto your back. You can choose from several different parasail heights as well as pickup and drop-off service from your hotel. There is also free parking at Tahoe Paddle & Oar. The cost is $50 per person for a 600'flight, $60 per person 900', flight $70 per person 1400'flight.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: The North Shore Parasail Rides are one of the most peaceful ways to see the lake.

Christina's expert tip: Sometimes, North Shore can fit you in at the last minute, so check with them the day before or early in the morning.

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The Lake Tahoe Adventure Company is one of the popular and well-run tour companies in Lake Tahoe. The company leads high quality adventure travel trips and tours with a focus on the natural beauty of the mountains, lakes, trails and rivers of the Tahoe area. With the TAC you can take several kayak tours including a lakeside lunch tour, a North Shore tour or Sand Harbor tour. Their Sunset Friday kayak tours and Thunderbird Lodge kayak tours are truly unique. Each tour includes a kayak, paddle, professional guide, instruction, natural and historical discussions, permits, fees, snacks and beverages. Additional tours include mountain bike tours on the Flume Trail and other single tracks around the area,.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: TAC also specializes in SUP (stand-up paddle boarding) and rents the boards for $80 a day.

Christina's expert tip: The TAC staff and guides are very experienced and knowledgable about the Tahoe area.

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Mount Tallac is one of the tallest peaks in Tahoe at 9,735 feet and the loop from the Glen Alpine Trailhead at 6,500 feet is a long, strenuous 11.6 mile hike. However, the views are so worth it. There is free parking at the trailhead and a bathroom. You will need to bring your own water and food. The hike takes you over crushed granite and loose rock and shale and you get views of Fallen Leaf Lake on the way up. Along the trail you will come to two smaller alpine lakes, Gilmore and Cathedral Lake. At the top of the mountain you will get some wonderful views of Desolation Wilderness, Fallen Leaf Lake, Granite Lake and all of Lake Tahoe. The hike will take about 8-10 hours for the average hiker.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Tallac is one of the best hikes in the area for intermediate to advanced hikers.

Christina's expert tip: Be prepared while hiking: bring enough water for the entire day, food, correct shoes and clothes for both warm and cool weather.

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Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo courtesy of Christina Nellemann

The Tahoe Rim Trail follows the shore of Lake Tahoe and is one of the world's premier trails. It passes through two states (California and Nevada), six counties, one state park, three National Forests, and three Wilderness areas. This spectacular trail is 165 miles of single-track multiuse trail, winding peak to peak around Lake Tahoe. Hiking and horseback riding are allowed on all portions of the trail, while mountain biking is allowed on the trail with the exception of the wilderness areas, the section that is in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, and on the sections of trail that overlap with the Pacific Crest Trail.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: The world-famous Tahoe Rim Trail has some photo perfect spots to hike and mountain bike.

Christina's expert tip: The TRT offers Backcountry Skill Courses throughout the year.

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Zephyr Cove

Clearly Lake Tahoe is one of the best ways to see the deep, blue depths of this mountain lake. Clearly Tahoe rents out private, clear bottom kayaks where you can see dozens if not hundreds of feet into the water. Each kayak can fit 1-2 people and includes paddles, preservers, delivery and setup. A 2 hour tour costs about $75 for a single boat and $95 for a double boat. Kayaks can also be rented for 1/2 days and 6 hours. Clearly Tahoe offers group tours and events as well as guided tours of various parts of the lake.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Clearly Tahoe is one of the best ways to see the depths of Tahoe–without getting wet.

Christina's expert tip: Clearly Tahoe also offers weddings and LED stargazing tours in their clear kayaks.

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Meet Christina Nellemann

Christina has lived in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area since she was a baby. A first-generation Nevadan, her Danish parents instilled in her an intense love of travel and the wild, rugged outdoors...  More About Christina